Many of us spend a lot of time driving, and would like our experience to be as pleasant as possible. While there is nothing we can do about gas prices or traffic, a good sound system can make any trip more enjoyable.
Installing your own car radio isn't difficult if you have the right tools and an aptitude for electronics. While the specs mentioned here apply to Toyota Corollas (2004 to 2008), you can find out what your car needs easily.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Access to the Internet
- Aptitude for electronics
- Wire strippers, crimper
- Car stereo
The first thing you will need to know is what size radio will fit in your car. For a 2004 Toyota Corolla, for example, your car would require a double din stereo with 9-1/8" depth. A double din means you have a 4-inch rectangular opening in the dash of your car. If you don't have a 2004 Corolla, proceed to Step 2. Otherwise, go to Step 3.
If you need to find the specs for another car, go to www.crutchfield.com. Under the Shop tab, click Car Audio & Video, then Outfit My Car. Enter your car's information and when it asks to choose the brand of car stereo select Skip This Step. The next screen will show you what size stereo and speakers to choose for your car.
Think about what you want in your car stereo. Do you own an iPod, have a large CD collection, or a large library of digital music on your home computer? If so, choose a stereo with an auxiliary output on the front, plays MP3 files, or both. You can buy a cable for about 3 dollars from any Wal-Mart to connect your MP3 player to your stereo.
If you don't have an iPod but do have a large collection of digital music, you can burn MP3 CDs and skip the expense of a six-disc changer. MP3s are compressed files, and often you can burn 99 songs on a disc and pop it in your car stereo.
What about HD or satellite radio? If you subscribe to a paid service such as XM, you will want to buy a receiver that is compatible. HD radio is free but the quality is not yet much different than the old analogue stations so the buying an HD receiver may not be necessary.
DVD or GPS, anyone? Radios are now being replaced with sophisticated equipment. If you don't yet have a GPS, it might not be a bad idea to buy a fully integrated system. This will cost big bucks, however, and should be installed by a professional.
Once you know what it is you want to do with your car, pick a radio that fits your price range. Using a site like Crutchfield is good because you can also get free installation instructions and mounting brackets. They also offer free lifetime support on anything you buy and get good customer service ratings.
Make sure you read the instructions for installing your radio BEFORE you do it, and have all the tools and accessories needed. Many times you will need to buy an antenna adaptor and wiring, which can significantly add to the total cost. Be sure you have everything before you take your car apart.
Set aside a day to install your radio. If this is your first time, give yourself 5-6 hours to account for unexpected problems. Don't forget to be sure your radio is grounded properly or you might cause serious electrical problems with your car.
Tips and warnings
- Get a friend to help you. It's a lot faster when you have someone there to help you run wire and read diagrams.
- Buy extended warranties on whatever you get. Some stores will allow you to trade it for a new item even if you fried it during installation.
- Get help if you're not comfortable. Electrical problems can cause fires and other serious problems with your car.
- Add fuses between your radio and car battery or invest in an alternate power source like lightning caps. If you are adding a stereo, amp and high-powered speakers these can drain your battery slowly over time.
- Do not take shortcuts.
- Don't start installing the stereo before you have all the tools, equipment and knowledge. If you only have one vehicle, how are you going to drive to the store to pick up a part if your car is in pieces?
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